Friday, November 1, 2019

The Taint by: Michael Collier

The debut novel of Michael Collier Longest Day is one of the weakest Eighth Doctor Adventures.  Often when a novel is not well received by the greater Doctor Who fan community, the author would not be invited to contribute any more material to the Doctor Who novel range, so it was a surprise when ten books later BBC Books released The Taint, Collier’s second and final effort for any Doctor Who range, with the promise that this is the introduction of a new companion for the Eighth Doctor.  With Collier’s previous work being a weaker entry, there was a sense of apprehension reading this one as it could easily turn out as weak as the former.  The Taint once again demonstrates Collier’s propensity for filling stories with interesting ideas.  The novel is set in London, 1963 where six individuals have all begun to share the same delusion.  They believe that they are all Satan, the Devil himself, come up from Hell for nefarious purposes and delusions of torment by demons.  Luckily, these shared delusions do not seem to make them dangerous, but they have been taken under the care of Dr. Charles Roley.  Roley is taking care of them at his own manor with their consent and attempting to get to the bottom of this mystery.

The main theme of the novel is one of the study of parapsychology, a field of pseudoscience popular in the 1960s as advances in science brought to the forefront the possibility that psychic powers were a legitimate field of inquiry.  Inquiry led to thorough debunking of the field in reality, but playing around in the Doctor Who universe makes the field an incredibly interesting idea to explore.  Much of the first half of the novel involves discussion between Roley, his assistant Maria, and the Doctor on the nature of his experiments and the possible causes of these delusions.  The investigation slowly builds as it becomes apparent that there is something more occurring in the story.  This is one aspect of the novel where Collier lets the story down is that the actual storyline doesn’t delve deeply into exactly what experiments Roley has been conducting and becomes far too quick on the uptake when it comes to including alien intervention.  The villains of the novel are Azoth and Tarr.  Azoth presents himself as an almost demonic figure attempting to use these people for his own purposes, but Collier eventually reveals that he’s just an android from the future.  This twist is perhaps the weirdest twist of the novel, as Collier implies Azoth should be some alien and an android villain doesn’t quite make sense with what is set up.  Tarr is a human villain and to be honest he is incredibly bland, making little impact on the plot except being someone for Azoth to talk to and intimidate.

Collier does shine in this second attempt at a novel in characterizing the Doctor and Sam as well as introducing a new companion.  Fitz Kreiner is a young man working in a greenhouse whose mother is one of Dr. Roley’s patients and gets caught up in the events of the novel.  Fitz is a character whom Collier immediately ingrains into the reader’s mind by giving quite a bit of insight into his mind.  He’s a lovable rogue archetype through and through, convinced he’s a ladies man and going to make it as a star one day, but hopelessly lost in London with a dead end job.  He does land a date with Sam Jones and they do spend much of the book with scenes of excellent chemistry.  Collier hints on a potential romance, but the plot of the novel makes note that this chain of events is not fated to happen as Fitz undergoes emotional trauma as his mother does not make it out alive.  Sam Jones is also characterized quite well by Collier, having some great scenes with Fitz and a sense of emotional connection.  Outside of that her character is no less bland than her other appearances.  The Eighth Doctor here perhaps acts most like the character, with his first appearance attempting to by a dead begonia which he intends to rescue.  It is an excellent scene and the childlike wonder and eternal optimism of the character is present throughout.  Overall, The Taint is an improvement over Longest Day and is good, but the weak villains and a plot that needs a little more time to breathe.  6/10.


  1. Excellent review, as always.

    I'm tempted to point out (but you probably know it) that Michael Collier is none than Stephen Cole himself under a pseudonym.
    That's why he was able to writte a second time!